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Pirates notebook: NL Central not so soft after all

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 6:18 p.m.

How about a little love for the National League Central?

When the Astros shifted to the American League this season, much was made of how they were leaving the supposedly soft NL Central for the big, bad AL West.

Yes, the Rangers (27-14) had the best record in the American League through Thursday, but they also are the only team in the AL West above .500. The other four teams are a combined 66-99.

Meanwhile, the teams with the three best records in the National League reside in the Central: the Cardinals (26-14), Reds (25-16) and Pirates (24-17). So why does the division get overlooked so often?

“The major media markets are on the coasts, so they're going to get more attention,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “But I don't think anybody is overly concerned about what you get from outside sources.”

• The Astros have four ex-Pirates on their roster: left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard, reliever Jose Veras, shortstop Ronny Cedeno and outfielder Robbie Grossman. That might give the Pirates at least a slight advantage in some situations. “We know them very well,” Hurdle said. “But you've got to game plan in order to have success against anybody regardless of how well you know them.”

Andrew McCutchen made a leaping catch to help Francisco Liriano dodge what could have been a tough inning Thursday against the Brewers. This is the first time the two have been teammates, but they have gone against each other in the past. “I've faced him a couple times,” Liriano said. “I think the first homer he hit was against me. He's a great player, and to be with him and be his teammate is great.” McCutchen hit his first home run June 17, 2009, on a 2-2 pitch from Liriano, who was with the Twins.

• Catcher Brian Jeroloman was traded to the Washington Nationals for cash. The Pirates acquired Jeroloman over the winter from Cleveland. He hit .222 (4 for 18) in 11 games for Triple-A Indianapolis.

• Reliever Jose Contreras was placed on the bereavement list because of a death in his family. Jared Hughes was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. Hughes was demoted to Indy on May 4 to open a roster spot for Contreras. In five outings for Indy, Hughes tossed 6 23 scoreless innings.

— Rob Biertempfel

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